I have to stand up and admit that since I went on the speed awareness course I have become a speed bore. Instead of flying around like a nutter, I try to keep calm and let the others do what they will and I get on with my own ride. I'll have to see how that pans out at the weekend when we drive to Brighton for the Joe Bonamassa concert.
I set the cruise control today for an indicated 75 and cruised up the M20. Just short of Maidstone I noticed that traffic, although light, was now bunching. When this happens it's odds on that at the front is a police car running about the legal limit or slightly under.
As I surmised, there was a cop at the front. I left the cruise on the indicated 75 and overtook everyone. The cop was in the left lane (nearside) and I was in the middle, he needed to pull out around a truck, I pulled out in good time to give him room. I slid past. No problems. A wave of thanks for letting him out. In the mirrors none of the others had followed my lead.
A mile or so later he took the exit ramp. By the time we got to the other side of the junction, at least a dozen of the cowards had flown past me; still with cruise at 75........... Quite pathetic that these people haven't got the courage to drive to the limit when the cop is there, but will speed up once they think the risk has gone. Wouldn't it have been a laugh to see him re-appear on the on-ramp?
After a couple of days where I have started running at a higher cruise speed, fuel consumption had risen, yesterday's fill up (I fill up every day!) was back to a more acceptable 56.34mpg. I am hoping for better tonight.
Riding in today was fraught again. I was hosting a training session starting at 0930 for 15 school staff that wanted to know about SIMS, the MIS that we use almost exclusively in Islington's schools. I was up early and on the road some 30 minutes earlier than normal, giving me an ETA of before 0900.
The ride up the M20 wasn't too bad. Overhead signs said that there were holdup s on the M25 but the junction number seemed to be either side of the Dartford Crossing. Then more signs to say that there were holdups by the A223 - "A2 DELAYS AT A223". Meaningless to everyone but the most anally retentive pillock imaginable.
As it was, the signs should have said "Blackwall Tunnel closed" and then me and thousands of other road users could have planned an alternative. But no. This information was only published a couple of miles from the closed tunnel and mostly after you had past the last exit! Brilliant. Take a bow Kent Police and Metropolitan Police.
In the end I diverted onto the old A2 where the traffic was horrendous. Given the extra load the roads were taking one might have expected PC49 to be out and about keeping traffic flowing. Not a single cop to be seen. The Met's finest Wiggums no doubt too busy tucked up with their breakfast and tea - the UK equivalent of the donut break.
Instead it was left to Joe Public to police himself. A job that the average car and truck driver is sadly incapable of doing without grid locking every junction and doing and impersonation of a mong. I eventually managed to get through to the bus lanes of Greenwich and up to Tower Bridge. Yes, it is a tourist site but when you have an appointment, no amount a scenic splendour can make up for being pissed off and late.
In the end I arrived with fifteen minutes to spare and was changed and down in time to meet and greet.
It's only a few weeks since we had the worst pile-up in the history of Kent and one of the worst in the UK. It occurred on the "new" bridge across the River Swale estuary giving access to the Isle of Sheppey. One of the contributing factors? FOG. The miracle was that there were few injuries, and no fatalities considering that there were cars and trucks and even three bikes involved.
It's no surprise that in the UK, autumn (The Fall) is the season of foggy mornings as the warmer ground and colder air combine.
Another contributing factor was speed. Give a British driver the "national speed limit" sign and he will use that as a rough guide that he or she can do that speed. Never mind that it is raining, or in this case foggy. The problem is that the bridge is quite high. To allow shipping to pass under it, the arch is quite pronounced and the river under is cold and draws colder air upwards. Or so they said on the BBC!
When I left for my ride to work today, it was foggy on the Roughs above Hythe. By the time I got to the M20 the sun was out and in places it had burned off the fog, but in dips and hollows, the fog persisted. In the main drivers reacted well, but there are always a minority that have no idea, they drive with no lights on. The combination of a grey or silver car, no lights and fog makes the car almost invisible in a rear view mirror and difficult to see with the "life saver" over the shoulder look.
As we approached Maidstone, the overhead gantries showed the limit had changed to 40 mph. The M20 is four lanes wide on each side as it crosses the River Medway. As with the Swale the river cooled the air more than the surrounding area and the fog was at its densest. Hence the 40 limit?
I slowed to 40, cars on both sides ploughed on. Only the car tailgating me slowed for a while before he swerved around me into a gap in the third (of the four) lanes. Why was I in the second lane? The left most lane goes off at the bottom of the hill......
If you can imagine the Charge of the Light Brigade, then you can imagine the M20 in the morning's fog. Luckily no Russian cannons were involved but it is more by luck than driving skill that there were no accidents or even contact between all manner of four wheeled tin cans!!
What is the solution? Hopefully they turned on the speed cameras on the overhead gantry and the offenders will get a ticket or an invitation to the speed awareness course I took last week!!!
Has the Sheppey lesson been learned? Has it ****! Scary.
You know how it is.. You are doing some housekeeping; maybe vacuuming the house and you feel that such a boring job would benefit from a little music. But where to put your iPod? The wire always gets in the way whether you have it in a front pocket or maybe in a back one with the wires running up your back! What you need are wireless headphones.
Some years ago I bought the Jabra BT620 headphones and they came with a small Bluetooth transmitter that fits into the power/output socket on the bottom of the iPod. They weren't too expensive and I used them for a while and then they ended up in a bag in the loft. Whilst up there over the weekend I found them, plus the handbook (usually lost!) and charged them up.
The Jabra headset can have two connections at once, so once charged, I paired it to my iPhone and was able to listen to music and a podcast from there. My iPhone is a 3GS with just 8GB on memory and so I have very little on it as it fills up all to easily and gets slower and slower in operation and sometimes can't run any apps until re-booted.
The range isn't that good, maybe 15 feet and without too many obstacles in the way to block the "line of sight", so to vacuum the entire house I needed to re-locate the iPhone a couple of times to avoid sound drop-outs.
The sound quality is good enough for me. I don't need to hear the difference between first and second violin listening to my music, although every nuance of Joe Bonamassa's skills on the both the electric and acoustic guitars is pretty clear. Maybe less clarity is needed with Black Sabbath?
Once the Bluetooth transmitter was charged it needed pairing as it had forgotten the last pairing done three or four years ago! It should be pretty straightforward but took a few goes before the music from the iPod was received in the headphones. On testing it seems to have the same sort of range as the iPhone connection with the same "line of sight" limitations. In reality, I will most likely use them on the train to work mornings and evenings and so the transmitter/iPhone will be a few feet away on the table in front of me.
Volume is actually controlled on the headphones and not on the iPhone or iPod itself. So you can turn down the volume, which will save battery life.
Sound bleed? One of the bug bears of any sound system in a public place is having to listen to the tinny sound from someone else's muzak. People pay an arm and a leg for an iPhone and Apple package it with the shittiest earphones available. Why?
As a result I am paranoid that when I am listening to mine, that I will enrage my fellow passengers. Maybe that sets me aside from some of the muppets I have to put up with? So my test included that as well. Could Claire hear any sound escaping? Apparently not at normal sound levels. Phew.
I am sure over the years manufacturers are making better more up to date options but for now, the BT620's will do for me.
It was going to be sunny. It was going to be warm. It's England.
So I made sure I had leather jeans on and the heavier jacket. There was no sun, but it was warm.
Comfortable ride up to London.
Curiously home to work and back isn't as far as it used to be. Either the tectonic plate has moved and Hythe is nearer London, or the odometer is different compared with the GS.
The Emirates Stadium is about half a mile from where I work.
I had a ride round the bike parking spaces around the stadium and they were all full so I ended up parking in a school up the road. It costs a fiver but at least the staff are on hand to keep an eye on the bikes and cars parked there.
In future I might as well park at work and walk up! I might even be able to get in the building and change out of bike gear for the game.
The ride up. I gave myself plenty of time for a 1.30pm kick-off, leaving home at 10.45 and having a genteel cruise control run up. The cruise set at a healthy law abiding 75mph. Allowing for speedo error safely under the legal limit or thereabouts. I arrived at the parking about 12.20pm.
As usual Döra ran perfectly, so there's not much to be said!!
Today I was the only bike parked at St Joan of Arc as well. Most of the other bikes I saw seemed to be going the opposite direction. I have no idea what could be more exciting.
The walk from the school to the stadium isn't far but it was so muggy I was boiling in my jacket. I should have put the panniers on and locked my jacket away!!
After the game. Arsenal won 3-1, I had the walk back, this time uphill! By the time I got back to Döra I was melting.
I used a few back roads to escape the stadium area and was soon on the way home. With cruise set a little higher, mpg fell to about 54 on the onboard computer. The petrol stop showed only 142.9 miles on the trip and 56.54mpg on the mpgcalc app.
The sun never showed it's face but it was still a good day out.
I have been toying with this item since the Scotland trip.
The natural seeming place on the left of the cockpit for the TomTom was less than perfect.
It was okay before the handguards were fitted and then on almost full lock to turn right, and you'd be surprised how often you do that, the handguard clashed with the Satnav. Dangerous a few times until I made allowances.
The obvious place is the handlebars, but Döra has 1" bar in the centre and the Ram bracket won't fit.
The weather forecast today was for dry and pleasantly warm weather. After the rain yesterday, that started about the time I was to head off for my Speed Awareness Course (see review elsewhere!), I took the car. Good job as it happened as it tipped down on the M20 on the way back.
So, when I threw the curtains open today I expected to see dry ground and the sun in the sky. At least I got the latter. Albeit it was somewhere over the Channel. The ground was wet and not because of the evenings rain.
I dug the bike out and togged up. The cloud strata was very strange. In Hythe it looked as though there was a full blue sky and sun, but someone had held up a blanket of grey above our heads. On three sides you could see the end of the blanket and there was a blue sunny horizon.
As I climbed out of the Bay and onto the downs it was clear that the blanket extended inland, way inland. The further I went, the blanket kept hanging there! To the south, there was the blue edge to the sky, same to the north!
It was only when I was a mile or so from work (some 75 miles from home) that I managed to get almost to the edge of the blanket.
Okay, we all have cloud but this was so weird that at some points you could see the blue around the entire 360 degree horizon.
The weekend is supposed to be the same but slightly warmer. Who knows?
Does anyone ever believe the weather forecasters?
It seems the mad old bloke down the road with the pine cone is more liable to get it right than all the computers at the weather services.
The Motorcycle Action Group is pleased that Brian Hampton has been brought to Justice over causing the death of 16 year old Jade Clark, while driving his Volvo XC90 in February this year. However, they feel the sentence handed down by Judge Samuel Wiggs, is woefully inadequate.
Hampton received a two year sentence for causing death by careless driving. An additional four year sentence was imposed for Perverting the Course of Justice. The sentences will run consecutively.
Hampton, who was an ex-paramedic, was driving while disqualified for drink driving. He denies knowledge of the accident, yet drove around Jade and fled the scene, leaving her laying in the middle of a busy road. He later attempted to cover his tracks by having his car repaired. He lied to both his wife, and the garage where the car was repaired, as to the circumstances behind the damage.
MAG applauds the work of the police in bringing Hampton to Justice, considering the large amount of resources used. They inspected around 1,400 Volvo XC90's before identifying the driver. They described Jade as quite an experienced rider, despite her age.
MAG understands that the Judge followed the sentencing guidelines laid down by the Government. John Mitchell, MAG's National Chairman, has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General to ask them to review the prosecution of the case, and Brian Hampton's sentence. Also to review sentencing guidelines, which seem to be at the heart of the problem. He has also asked his MP to table a question in parliament on the apparent lack of value given to the life of a vulnerable road user.
John said: "Brian Hampton should not have been on that road that particular day. He was already disqualified. His actions in attempting to cover up the incident are cowardly in the extreme. In this situation we cannot just blame Hampton, the law needs to be clearer on appropriate sentencing. If a banned driver receives only a two year sentence for causing the death of a vulnerable road user, what sort of value does that put on a human life?"
I set off in good time to get to the venue in Ashford at the Ashford Enterprise Centre in the Tower School.
There were 24 of us miscreants that had chosen to go on the course rather than get the fine and the associated penalty points on our licences. A wide spectrum of men and women aged from 25 to 75. All of us had exceed the posted limit by 9 miles or less.
The session wasn't as bad as the advanced paperwork made out. Not draconian at all. The instructors Tim and Ian took us through subjects such as speed awareness, eco driving and hazard perception. I was pleased that they had a section on blind spots and the difference between looking and seeing, with motorcycles at the forefront.
All in all, a good course and I have learned quite a bit.
The Punto was born in Italy in 1994 and was registered in the UK in the early part of 1995. Over the years it has had a few owners, the last two being my Mum and then me. I inherited it from her when she gave up driving as she approached her 78th birthday.
Although the best part of eighteen and half years old (measured from registration not falling off the end of the production line in Turin or somewhere around there) it has managed just over 50000 miles. In the UK the average miles per year has hovered around 12000 miles per year.
She had it serviced regularly and with the low mileage I have been bad and not bothered. It suffers from a kind of vehicular acne with a disease of the paintwork; where a white coating flakes off. Added to a little bodywork damage to the nearside front after an excursion off-road; her not me, it paints a sorry picture.
Today it has been in the garage for a pre-MoT check. I called them today and it's not as bad as I thought. It needs a track rod end, and it will past the MoT.
It's a patch up job. It leaks oil from a few places around the engine bay plus there are a number of "advisory" notices that it will have marked that will need looking at but don't stop in being legal.
It is on its last legs to be honest and whilst it is "unlikely to burst into flames", it's not going to last long and will be fit for short journeys to the station etc.
Time to start looking for a replacement.
With Claire's car being a little restrictive being a coupe, something a bit bigger with luggage space and maybe more comfort and maybe luxuries like cruise-control and a CD player!
MAG is currently in dialogue at a senior level with Brent Council. At a
very positive meeting, MAG's transport policy advisor Dr. Leon Mannings
learned of the very real problems Brent Council and the police have had
to deal with to ensure the safety of all road users.
Whilst MAG strongly condemns the unacceptable behaviour of the few irresponsible motorcyclists that has led to this situation, we reiterate
our stance, that persecuting law abiding road users is not acceptable.
We have secured assurance that the ban is temporary and has only been enacted because of very extreme circumstances. MAG continues to pursue avenues to a more acceptable solution.
John Mitchell, MAG's National Chairman said: "MAG understands the
situation faced by Brent Council and we hope they can get this matter
resolved as soon as possible".
For more information contact MAG President Ian Mutch: 07799 764161